Speech by Valentinas Mazuronis, Minister of Environment, at the European Parliament, Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee

10 July 2013, Last updated at, 11:36 EEST
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Valentinas Mazuronis | author: eu2013.lt

Dear Mr Chairman, Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Being the members of this central institution within the European Union, you have been entrusted with the mission to guard the principles of democracy. Thus, it is a great honour to present to you the agenda for the second term of 2013 for Lithuania’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in which you will find common goals and tasks uniting us all.

Before presenting our programme, I would like to thank Ireland for their excellent work and significant Presidency results during the first term of 2013. We will take over the task of ensuring smooth running of the Council within the framework of the Trio Programme.

In particular, I would like to thank them for the achieving the inter-institutional agreement on the 7th Environmental Action Programme, which is the most important strategic document setting out concrete goals for shaping the future environmental policy.

Close collaboration among Member States plays an essential role in ensuring the well-functioning of the European Union institutions. Hence I am eager to congratulate Croatia on joining the European Union which, I am sure, will offer inspiration for new initiatives towards creating a prosperous, safe and successful Europe.

Therefore, during its Presidency, Lithuania will focus on three main goals of creating a Credible, Growing and Open Europe. We will aim to reflect these goals in the Environmental agenda.

We can all be proud that the European Union has the strictest environmental protection standards in the world. That could never have been achieved without you, Honourable Members.
Thus we truly appreciate this opportunity to take part in the decision making process with you and be able to improve conditions for the environment.

Implementation of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is among the questions which will be given specific importance during Lithuanian Presidency. It would be the first macro-regional strategy of the European Union, initiated right here – in the European Parliament. As a result of your initiative, today there is successful collaboration between Member States and other interested parties in the sphere of environment protection, with a particular emphasis on opportunities for economic growth and job creation. The fourth annual forum on the Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region shall take place in Vilnius on 11–12 November, 2013, involving discussions among partners on the implementation of the strategy, with a specific regard on environmental protection.

The Lithuanian Presidency’s main priority will be to focus on an effective and smooth legislative process. We are very grateful for your contribution to the proposals, most of which are cornerstones defining the challenges of our Presidency. It is only with your help that we will be able to overcome these hurdles and thus continue building a Europe which encourages the protection of the environment. Therefore it is my sincere wish to express the gratitude for being able to meet with the honourable rapporteurs from the European Parliament and listen to their positions on sensitive issues. Thank you.

I would like now to present our Presidency’s priorities in the environmental area.

It is evident that climate change issues are of great concern, having an impact on a number of important areas such as industry, energy, transportation, agriculture and other segments of the economy. The Lithuanian Presidency would like to work together with the European Parliament on the main Lithuanian priorities, such as the Regulation on fluorinated greenhouse gases. Our goal is to achieve a first reading agreement with the Parliament and the Council.

This piece of legislation is an important signal to the international community in the context of the upcoming 25th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol and the 19th Conference of the Parties to – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Acknowledging the importance of the proposal on Regulation on Access to Genetic Resources and Sharing of Benefits in the implementation of the Nagoya protocol, we will seek a first reading agreement with the European Parliament on the matter. Our intention is to pave the way for the European Union and its Member States to ratify the Nagoya protocol before the first Conference of Parties, which will serve as the Meeting of Parties of the Nagoya protocol, takes place. This is one of the key priorities of Lithuanian Presidency in the environmental area.

Adoption of this regulation would be an important step for the European Union and, consequently, would make a proper sign at the global level. Doing that will allow the Union to deliver on "Target 16" of the CBD Strategic Plan 2011–2020, which foresees that by 2015 the Nagoya Protocol is in force and operational.

In order to achieve that result we look forward to working in close cooperation with the European Parliament, in the hope that the European Parliament will grant a mandate to start negotiations in the upcoming plenary session.

Review of the 'Environmental Impact Assessment' Directive is of particular interest for the Lithuanian Presidency. We intend, therefore, to intensively carry on with the work already done on this topic so far.

We will try to reach a common agreement on this issue, as well as discussing possible rational measures, increasing the quality of assessment, simplifying and accelerating procedures avoiding the creation of additional administrative or financial burden for public and private sectors.

We are determined to start negotiations in order to reach a first reading agreement, if the European Parliament and the Council allows. Our course of action will strongly rely on the outcome of the vote in your Committee.

We hope for close and effective collaboration on this issue with your institution in the upcoming months.

We will seek significant progress on ILUC Directive, in the formats of the Environment Council and the Energy Council.

Intensive consultations within the Council throughout the previous semester reiterate the fact that indirect land-use change from the production of biofuels is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

Both the Energy and Environment Councils in June have taken stock of discussions and options on the ILUC proposal explored thus far, giving us direction for future work.

In my opinion it is essential that the three Institutions share similar considerations on the need for ILUC mitigation on the one hand, while maintaining clear investment perspectives and the achievability of the EU renewables targets on the other.

We are closely following the debates within your Committee and look forward to seeing the draft report that lead Committee is expected to vote on.

Therefore, the Presidency is ready to seek a balanced solution alongside other Member States that will have a positive impact on the environment, economy, business and EU citizens.

The Presidency will do its utmost to conclude negotiations on the proposal of the European Parliament and of the Council on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism. This document, together with the new multiannual financial framework entering into force from 2014, will form the background for more effective disaster prevention within and outside the EU.

Lithuania has been closely following developments within the European Parliament on the Emissions Trading System (ETS) Clarification dossier. We acknowledge the political sensitivities and difficulties surrounding this file. Nonetheless, the Presidency will be ready to engage with the European Parliament to explore possible avenues for the follow-up.

We hope to successfully accomplish negotiations on amendments for the Biocide product regulation. This is an important legislative file for which we hope to reach a swift agreement in the Council and with you, Honourable Members of the Parliament.

The Lithuanian Presidency will continue the Irish work on the review of CITES Regulation on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora. Our aim is to reach a first reading agreement of the European Parliament and the Council.

We will start working with proposals on Ambient air, Invasive Species, International Waste Shipment Inspections, as soon as they are submitted by the Commission.

In autumn Lithuania will initiate discussions on the review of the Thematic Strategy on air pollution and its legislation. These discussions will relate to more ambitious goals of reducing emissions of ambient air, as well as additional measures to diminish pollution.

During our Presidency we hope to reach progress in deliberating the proposal on invasive species that will be submitted by the Commission in a short while. We assume that legally binding legislation would contribute to diminishing negative effects on the biodiversity in the European Union. This would allow for unified actions to be taken to tackle problems caused by invasive species.

Another question is on Forests. I would like to present you our ambitious plans in this field.

We will put every effort to ensure a coordinated implementation of sustainable forestry principles in Member States. We plan to adopt Council conclusions at the European Union level instrument– the New forestry strategy which is to be discussed in your committee. The strategy should be based on the principles of respect to existing national competences, while giving particular priority to climate change and renewable energy issues.

Also we will seek agreement on FLEGT Regulation and its adoption at the first reading.

The Presidency faces a very busy international environmental agenda, particularly on climate change, chemicals, desertification, biodiversity and forestry issues.

The Lithuanian Presidency will put specific efforts for the most important international event of 2013 – Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP-19/CMP-9) in Warsaw. In October, the Council will adopt conclusions formulating a common EU position for this conference. We truly appreciate the participation and involvement of the European Parliament in the process of preparing for this major international event on climate change and we hope for a close cooperation in Warsaw.

The conference will involve discussions on the new climate change agreement entering into force from 2020.

The international climate agenda will be among the topics for discussion at the Informal meeting of Environment and Climate ministers on 16–17 July. Therefore, we have also invited Mr. Xie Zhenhua China’s chief negotiator on climate issues, the Deputy Chair of the National Development and Reform Commission. During the meeting in Vilnius, we will also discuss important issues of securing financing in natural capital and biodiversity and shale gas risk assessment.

During the Lithuanian Presidency, two legally binding international agreements – on Forestry and Mercury – will be finalised.

In the framework of the Forest Europe process, we will seek adequate representation for the European Union and its Member States in the resumed fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee and the upcoming Extraordinary Ministerial Conference to be held in Madrid, where the outcomes of the negotiations are expected to be endorsed.

It is worth noting that the European Union has already been an active initiator and leader during the negotiations on the Mercury convention for the last four years.

I would like to emphasise the importance of the Diplomatic Conference for signing the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The conference will be held in Japan on 10–11 October. It is very important that countries ratify this international agreement as soon as possible in order to ensure future generations’ right to live in a mercury-free environment.

We will also take an active role in coordinating the European Union’s activities related to the implementation of Rio+20 decisions and strengthening the UNEP.

The Presidency will coordinate the preparation of the European Union participation in the High Level Political Forum, established when implementing the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. This Forum will strive for political leadership and monitoring the implementation of sustainable development.

Relevant environment protection issues shall be deliberated at the Conference of the Parties of the Desertification Convention, the Meeting of the Parties of Montreal Protocol, at the session of International Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services as well as at the Permanent committee of the Bern Convention.

Honourable Members of the Parliament, I strongly believe that only our goal-oriented work can guarantee success and well-being to all Member States and their citizens.

I am certain that our institutional dialogue within the upcoming six months will offer a great opportunity to learn from each other and for our mutual dependence while enacting binding decisions to be asserted once again.

We look forward to close cooperation during the Lithuanian Presidency.

Thank you for your attention. Now I am pleased to take your questions and to hear your suggestions.

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